Should Teenagers have Social Media Accounts?

These teens, like many others, spend hours on social media every day. McLean Hospital says that this can lead to “depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.”

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These teens, like many others, spend hours on social media every day. McLean Hospital says that this can lead to “depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.”

Celia Wallis, Staff Writer

You glance at the clock and it reads midnight. You want to sleep, but you can’t stop scrolling, thinking about other people’s lives, reading comments, and seeing controversial opinions. You want to stop, but find it nearly impossible, leaving you frustrated and tired the next morning.

If you relate to that, you are not alone. According to McLean Hospital, “a 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.”

While there are many benefits to social media apps, the impact that they can have on daily life is rather alarming, which begs the question of how teens should be using social media sites.

A major concern with social media is its impact on how teens view their bodies. Social media algorithms often promote an ideal body type that is not realistic for everyone. However, many teens feel discouraged when their bodies don’t match those of celebrities, which can lead to problems with self image and in severe cases, eating disorders.

It is also possible that the anonymity of social media sites will allow for bullying. While there is greater accountability on sites where names and pictures are attached to usernames, many sites such as Reddit are designed in a way where it is easy to remain anonymous.

Anonymous accounts allow more people to leave hateful comments without ever seeing the consequences. The people receiving the comments, however, are left with decreased self esteem.

Jacqueline Sperling (Ph.D.) says, “[Teenagers are a] very vulnerable population to have access to something where there is no stopgap before they post or press the send button. I think that’s something of which to be mindful.”

Additionally, many parents worry that teenagers will develop an addiction to social media by using it at a time when their brains are the most vulnerable. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, a shocking 54% of teens report that it would be difficult to give up social media.

It is ultimately not feasible to remove teens from social media sites altogether, so how can teens reduce the risks that accompany its use?

One way is to set time limits. Look at how much time you spend on social media right now and start slowly cutting back on how long you spend scrolling each day. Ideally, half an hour per day is a good limit, though any reduction in use is ultimately beneficial.

Next, it can be helpful to limit who can see your posts. It is easy to become addicted to posting just to see all of the likes and follows that it generates. Many people even start to have their self-worth determined by how many likes their content gets. Having private accounts allows for more connection with those following you and generates more meaningful relationships.

Similarly, limiting whose posts you closely follow is beneficial. It can be overwhelming to keep up with friends of friends and even celebrities, so choosing whose posts you want to focus on is key.

Finally, it is important to have friends and other trusted people in the real world who you can talk to if you find something upsetting. Too often, issues such as cyberbullying are left unresolved because victims don’t have anyone to talk to.

Removing social media from our lives in this day and age is simply not going to happen. However, teens should talk with their parents and make plans for how they are going to stay safe on the internet and frequently check in with themselves to make sure that they are still being responsible.